An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Bodyke N.S.

Bodyke,

Co. Clare

Uimhir rolla:11990E

 

Date of inspection: 4 October 2007

Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion

 

WHOLE SCHOOL EVALUATION

 

A whole-school evaluation of Bodyke N.S.was undertaken in October 2007.  This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education.    The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report;  the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Bodyke N.S. is a small rural school which operates under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Killaloe.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

 43

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school’s mission statement, which outlines its Catholic ethos, its aim of supporting and cherishing each child equally, is clearly stated and, in practice, this ethos statement is reflected in a palpable sense of care and purpose in the management and organisation of the school. To ensure that all core values are mentioned explicitly and re-affirmed, it would now be useful, to revisit the mission statement and to formulate an additional agreed over-arching aim in keeping with the purpose of learning and teaching as articulated in the core principles of the Primary Curriculum (1999).  Such an addition would serve to consistently refocus all stakeholders on developing an ethos of achievement in the school and on developing methods in the school to achieve these aims.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted, meets regularly and is fully compliant with statutory requirements and departmental guidelines and circulars.

 

In the immediate future, it is essential that all board members become confident in articulating the views of the stakeholders they represent, and therefore, that they avail of training for their roles. The chairperson should ensure that decision-making procedures at board level are, as far as possible, fully inclusive and transparent.  Fundamentally, the board of management should engage more actively with the teaching staff in relation to the quality of teaching and learning in the school and should set out a long and short-term action plan in this respect.

 

 

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal has created a positive team spirit and classroom climate, promoted good behaviour and attendance patterns, maintained school documentation efficiently, successfully organised the school’s resources and effectively facilitated the formulation of the school’s organisational and curricular policies. She now should actively oversee a cyclical approach to planning, implementation and ongoing review at pupil, class and whole–school level. Consideration should be given to existing staff skills and interests with a view to ensuring an even greater variation and rotation of teaching responsibilities.  

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

One to one annual parent/teacher meetings occur and it is also planned to disseminate written reports to parents at the end of the present academic year.

The parents’ association provides excellent support to the school in terms of fund-raising and supporting the teaching of Physical Education. Parents have been consulted in formulating some policies and should be involved in policy making and in the work of the school to a greater extent.

A concerted effort should be made to improve communication with the parent body and with the wider community, ensuring that information on key decisions made by the board and on the school’s finances is conveyed to the school’s stakeholders regularly. An annual review of the school’s work should be published.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils exhibit excellent behaviour patterns inside and outside the classroom. There is a positive approach and commitment by the staff to the pastoral care and overall welfare of the pupils.  The code of behaviour is understood and implemented throughout the school.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. Organisational policies have been drafted with current legislation in mind. It should be ensured at this point that all are ratified and dated. Cumbersome documentation should be avoided and the concise approach which was adopted in drawing up the plan for Mathematics using the prompts suggested by the support services and referring to the unique context factors involved in Bodyke N.S. is praiseworthy and could be used as a model for future planning. There is a need to consider how a more concise plan could be made accessible to the broader community. It is recommended that an immediate review of the plans for English and Gaeilge would take place. There is insufficient focus on school self-evaluation and on action planning within the organisational and curricular plans. The policy on assessment should be updated making reference to the use and recording of assessment and in particular its use in guiding planning.

 

There is scope for development in the quality of classroom planning which at present is largely based on the content of lessons and on the textbooks to be covered.  As there is a very wide range of attainment among the pupils, the expected learning outcomes in English in particular, should be stated clearly and differentiated in accordance with pupils’ stage of language development and needs. Monthly progress records should be maintained which incorporate teacher reflection on the degree of achievement of these planned outcomes thus enabling the teachers to rigorously evaluate the impact of their planning on improving outcomes for the pupils.

 

 

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Maidir le fiúntas an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge, na hoidí ag obair to dian chun atmaisféar atá fabhrach don teanga a chothú. Tugadh faoi deara go n-úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh go rialta agus go gcloítear leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc le linn an cheachta. Tugadh faoi deara, freisin, áfach, go bhfreagraíonn na daltaí an-chuid ceisteanna i mBéarla. Cothaítear scileanna éisteachta ar bhonn foirmiúil. Léitear scéalta agus aithrisítear dánta agus rainn go rialta go mbíonn roinnt drámaíochta ar siúl sna bunranganna, bunaítear na ceachtanna sna meán agus ardranganna ar théacsleabhair don chuid is . Bíonn obair bheirte agus obair aonarach ar siúl. Níl soiléir ón bpleanáil a cuireadh ar fail go dtógtar ar an bhfoghlaim atá déanta cheana féin. Ar an iomlán níl Curaclam na Bunscoile sa Ghaeilge á cur i bhfeidhm sa scoil. Is é toradh na hoibre, áfach, go bhfuil  caighdeán na foghlama sa chomhrá, sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht, lag.   

 

Is a chinntiú go mbeidh tionchar dearfach ag an bPlean Scoile ar an bpleanáil aonarach agus bhrí sin, b’fhiú an plean scoile don Ghaeilge a athbhreithniú. Moltar spriocanna cinnte foghlama a leagadh amach sa phleanáil ghearrthéarmach chun gnóthachtáil na ndaltaí a chinntiú thar raon leathan scileanna. Is cóir go mbeadh ábhar agus struchtúr cinnte sna cheachtanna. foláir sár-iarracht a dhéanamh suímh oiriúnacha a chothú chun fíorchumarsáid na ndaltaí a spreagadh, ionas go mbeadh deiseanna ag na páistí an Ghaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a chleachtadh. Is pleanáil a dhéanamh chun éagsúlacht san luas idirghníomhaíochta a chothú sa seomra ranga ionas go mbeidh muinteoireacht atá spreagúil agus ábhartha do ghátair na leanaí ar siúl. Is féidir measúnú a dhéanamh le linn an tréimhse idirghníomhaíochta ar conas brú éifeachtach chun tosaigh a chur i gcrích. Moltar cur síos a dhéanamh sa chuntas míosúil ar a bhfuil foghlamtha ag na daltaí.

 

Irish

In regard to the quality of teaching in Irish, the teachers are working very hard to develop an atmosphere which is favourable to the language. It was observed that the teachers regularly use Irish as the language for dialogue and Irish is adhered to as the teaching language during lessons. It was also observed, however, that the children answer many questions in English. Formal efforts are made to develop listening skills. Stories are read and poems and rhymes are regularly recited. Although some drama takes place in the junior classes, the lessons in the middle and senior classes are largely based on a textbook. Pair work and individual work takes place. It is not obvious from the planning provided that learning is based on previously acquired skills. On the whole, the Primary Curriculum in Irish is not being implemented in the school. The result of all the work, unfortunately, is that the standard of learning in conversation, reading and writing, is weak.

 

There is a need to ensure that the school plan will have a positive impact on individual planning and therefore, it would be worthwhile to revise the plan for Irish. It is recommended that clear learning objectives would be set out in short-term planning to ensure pupil achievement in a broad range of skills. Lessons should incorporate a specific theme and a clear structure. It is necessary to make a major effort to create suitable contexts for the development of authentic communication so that the children will have opportunities to practise the Irish they have learned. There is a need to plan for variation in the pace of interaction in the classroom so that teaching is motivating and relevant to the pupils’ needs. Teacher-pupil interactions should be used to make decisions on how teaching and tasks should be directed forward.  It is recommended that an account would be kept in the monthly progress record of the learning achieved by the pupils.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning is occasionally good but overall there is scope for development in teaching and learning in English.   Classroom organisation for English currently involves group teaching by standard, some pair work and individual work.  Cognisance is taken of pupils with special educational needs.  The current supply of books is very good as it is wide-ranging and includes fact and fiction.

 

In the teaching of oral language, at small group level, most pupils’ vocabularies are extended and their contributions are encouraged. However, there is not enough emphasis on focused oral language development, which would involve the teaching of discrete oral language lessons aimed at achieving the outcomes specified in the curriculum.    At a whole class level, in the senior classes, the structure and pace of oral language lessons varies and there is little evidence of talk, discussion, brainstorming and debate.

 

Formal reading is introduced too early in infant classes and therefore many young children are disadvantaged by not having the opportunity to have the development of their overall literacy skills based on a sound broad fundamental programme of language development.  There is some emphasis on listening and responding to story and the use of word games, poetry and drama is incorporated into the teaching. In the teaching of reading there is an over-reliance on published reading material. There is development of pupils’ phonological awareness and most pupils have mastered a range of reading strategies. In writing, there is development of grammar, spelling and handwriting and pupils’ work is regularly corrected. However, the strategies used in the development of writing are not overtly focused on fostering the pupils’ impulse to write and on enabling them to write competently, confidently and independently. The development of cognitive abilities through language and the pupils’ emotional development is not assisted by encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing.  In summary, attainment in oral work, reading and writing varies and overall there is an urgent need to ensure that the gap between ability and achievement is narrowed.

 

Fundamentally the implementation of the English curriculum is behind schedule in the school.  There is an imbalance in favour of the development of language skills as opposed to using language for learning.  This deficit would be rectified by using the English curriculum as a starting point in planning.  Clearly planned learning outcomes in oral work, reading and writing should be specified. Methodologies to develop the four strand units should be briefly outlined. There is a need now to explicitly focus on comprehension strategies (recall, retell, analysis, synthesis, inference, prediction, deduction, summarisation, evaluation, correlation) at an age appropriate level.   There is a need to consider possible variations in classroom organisation for language work. Different organisational structures would involve a shift from a teacher dominated approach towards an approach where children would be more active and would work together more frequently in groups that might occasionally involve a variety of attainment levels and ages.  In this regard, there is a need to consider the influence of the immediate learning environment to a greater extent, particularly in the junior classroom, which could be enhanced by the provision of designated areas for writing, reading, free play and dressing up.  The emphasis should now be changed from the product to the process of writing which the teachers should now scaffold, placing an emphasis on drafting and re-drafting, retaining intermediate efforts in individual folders. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

In Mathematics, a number of aspects of learning and teaching are good but there is scope for development overall to ensure that all children are achieving to their full potential. Pupil engagement in this area of the curriculum was observed to be good but achievement needs to be improved. The provision of concrete resources is good overall and during the evaluation period, this provision was growing. It is anticipated that new material will support the setting up of Mathematical corners and will enable more widespread display of mathematical posters and charts.

 

It was observed that there is an over-use of textbooks and workbooks in the school in the teaching of Mathematics. Written work is generally neat and is regularly corrected. Good emphasis is placed on teaching mathematical procedures and on the acquisition of mathematical language. However, there is not enough promotion of experiential learning approaches. The explicit development of problem–solving strategies, reasoning, estimating communicating, collaborative work, and active learning is now required. Children should be enabled to solve problems together from junior infants onwards. A play-based approach is appropriate in the early years.  Problems should be set for the children based on their own real-life experience. In this area of the curriculum also, it is important to match activities and tasks to pupils’ abilities and to ensure that planning for individual pupils and groups of pupils is clearly focused on meeting their learning needs. There needs to be a sharper focus on the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to promote the children’s learning. As in other areas of the curriculum, it is necessary to continue to monitor and record achievement of planned learning outcomes through teacher-devised tests and tasks. To raise numeracy performance overall, the annual results of standardised tests should be analysed in order to set targets for class groups and individuals.  In short, to raise achievement levels, the primary curriculum in Mathematics needs to be fully implemented and the current school plan should be fully applied.

 

3.3 Physical Education

The quality of learning and teaching in Physical Education is very good overall considering the constraints of the school site and the fact that each class contains pupils of various age ranges. The impact of the good community spirit and of the interest and support of the parents is central to the fact that all strands and strand units are taught. Much thought has been given to the provision of equipment. External coaches and parental skills are used appropriately. There is a focus on equality of participation and access for children with different needs. The skills of the Special Needs Assistants are also well utilised. The lessons observed had clear structure, good  pace and pupils fully participated and engaged enthusiastically. The very good developmental approach adopted should now be extended to include close monitoring and recording of the outcomes.  

 

3.4 Assessment

The school administers norm-referenced tests annually in English and Mathematics. A range of further diagnostic tests is used by the learning-support cum resource teacher. Various teacher-designed tests are used regularly in each classroom. Whereas teacher observation occurs and the teachers are aware of the strengths and attainment levels of each child, teacher observation should now become more structured to link in with well planned activities which will be matched and adapted to meet the needs of individual pupils. The range of assessment modes should be broadened and the quality and extent of record-keeping and reporting, which is currently fair, needs to be formalised to ensure that an effective tracking system is maintained.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school is to be affirmed on the clear remits given to the Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and to the manner in which it has facilitated both the learning support teacher and the SNAs to work in classrooms and thereby to contribute effectively to the progress of particular children. The fact that collaborative practice and an ethos of team working and professional engagement is already established within the school, augurs well for the further extension of this approach. There is, therefore, excellent scope for even greater adaptability and utilisation of skills to meet pupils’ needs at this point.

The learning support cum resource teacher is very committed to her work. She works collaboratively with class teachers and the children’s learning needs are met through a combination of in-class work and small group work on a withdrawal basis. She maintains Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs).  Early intervention work occurs with two children from the junior class group. It is now recommended that the individual plans would be updated in keeping with current regulatory requirements.

 

A revised school policy on the support given to pupils with special educational needs should refer to policy on how children will be selected for learning support, how information will be provided to parents and how parents will be involved in supporting the work and in review of targets. Clarity should be reached on the method of establishing learning targets and on the procedures or criteria which will apply in deciding to continue or discontinue learning support. A greater variety of resources needs to be sourced to support the teaching.  It is recommended that the scope of early intervention would be broadened to include actions such as involving the support teacher in ongoing observation and assessment in the early years. It is recommended that the continuous professional development of staff in regard to the teaching of children with special educational needs would continue to be encouraged by management.

 

4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

 A grant under the Breaking the Cycle Rural scheme is utilised in various initiatives to support learning and teaching in the school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • Full support is given by the entire school community to management of the school
  • The principal of the school has organisational and administrative leadership skills and has developed good staff working relationships manifested by a team spirit.
  • The teachers are caring professionals who enjoy their teaching and who are fully committed to the holistic development of the pupils.
  • The school climate is characterised by a warm positive ethos, by deep interest in the welfare of all pupils and in particular in the welfare of those pupils with special educational needs.

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

  • The board of management and staff should now fully embrace  the implementation of the Primary Curriculum and should set about ensuring that it is fully embedded in the school’s curriculum.
  • Clear communication structures should be put in place to ensure clarity among all the stakeholders in regard to aspects of the operation of the school.    
  • There is a need to ensure shared understandings regarding pupil learning outcomes at pupil, class and whole school level. These pupil outcomes should be explicitly linked to the Primary Curriculum (1999).
  • A cyclical approach to planning, implementation and ongoing review at pupil, class and whole–school level is required.
  • Greater variation is needed in teaching approaches. More collaborative and active learning, use of ICT and a lessening of reliance on textbooks are all required.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.